Over the Hill

An outsider’s take on Dan De Vaul

The Dan De Vaul stew has simmered for years, but I’ve never commented because I’m an outsider. I’m up here in Paso Robles, over the hill from Mr. De Vaul’s homeless housing ranch.

But now the stew is boiling over. He may soon be on “Good Morning America” and “Larry King Live.” Then lots of outsiders will comment. (I wonder if they’ll say San Looie Obispo.)

So now I’ll comment.

First comment: Mr. De Vaul wasn’t arrested for housing homeless people. He was arrested for housing them in unsafe, substandard quarters.

He was convicted of violating fire safety laws and vehicle storage laws. There are reasons why we have building and fire protection laws.

Often those laws were passed because people were killed or injured or lost lots of money in unsafely built homes.

He seems to think nobody can tell him what to do. If so, he’ll make lots of mistakes that other people have already made and learned from.

I sometimes suspect Mr. De Vaul wishes we still lived in the 1800s on a raw frontier where anything goes. But times have changed. Our population is denser and still growing. Building any way we want is like driving on the freeway without traffic laws and center dividers.

Second comment: Most of us obey laws, but Mr. De Vaul seems to enjoy breaking them. In an interview last May with a Los Angeles Times writer, he seemed proud of breaking the law.

He called attention to two recently built, 10-by-12-foot windowless sheds. He called them “our latest illegal adventure.”

They were built as garden sheds but were actually meant to house clients in his clean-and-sober-living program. He also described some nearby trailers as “also very illegal.”

Rescue missions operate legally; so can he.

Third comment: Most of us don’t want a magnet for homeless addicts and alcoholics down the street. We say, “Not In My Back Yard” or neighborhood. That’s why Mr. De Vaul’s 72-acre ranch is an ideal haven for them.

But he shouldn’t have turned it into a junkyard with his collection of maybe 100 old vehicles, machines and trailers. It hurts his neighbors’ property values and it suggests he considers his clients human junk. Above all, he shouldn’t be too proud to accept help to make the place safer.

Most of us are content to leave feeding the hungry and housing the homeless up to a few dedicated activists, devoted church members and Mr. De Vaul. If his ranch is a problem, we must share the blame.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.